Sunday, September 23, 2007

Lowering our water line in Margarita

Monday morning, we boarded the “VIP” shopping bus to Sigo’s courtesy of Juan Marina and received our very important Sigo number pass. Later we learned the money we spend gives Juan and his family “points” at Sigo, so they essentially eat for free. See, you like that angle? And we thought the numbers were for free coffee.

Margarita, a duty free shopping zone, had the cheapest prices in the Caribbean, mainly due to the unofficial exchange rate of the bolĂ­var to the dollar. When we saw the prices, we thought we were shopping in the 1950’s! Where else can you fill a jumbo shopping cart to the top with wine and spirits for a $100? The best part of shopping, from my perspective, were the Scotch reps. I swear they were all former Miss Venezuela contestants, clothed in black low cut spandex tops and form fitting pants. We must have enough Scotch to last us for the next 5 years now. Oh, the rest of the market was fantastic too, except there were no eggs or milk.

Chavez has price controls to keep basic items affordable for the 80% of the population that is impoverished. Watching kids tear apart my trash moments after depositing it was heart wrenching. Price controls includes fuel at $0.04 a gallon, beer at $2/case, cigarettes at $0.10/pack and other “necessities” such as sugar, eggs, milk, flour, and meats. One of the problems is the producers aren’t able to cover their expenses at times and will not supply the product. The milk gets powdered and stockpiled somewhere so there is no milk available. The eggs are sold illegally in the streets and open air markets for a premium price.

Margarita has 4 star malls, shopping, dining, and accommodations and is the vacation destination primarily for Venezuelans. Gated apartment high rises overlooking the ocean start at $20,000 including all the amenities. The “rabbit market” as it is called has great basic clothing, pirated CD’s and DVD’s, and generally decent produce. Cruising the high end mall, we realized just how much we did not need anymore. Xmas was around the corner and Margarita served us well for the kids.